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German immigrant who served his adopted country as a Union Army General, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of the Interior
Carl Schurz was born in Liblar, near Cologne, Germany, on March 2, 1829. Although his family had little money and his education sometimes suffered as a result, he managed to gain admittance to the University of Bonn, which he attended from 1846 to 1848. While in college he became involved in radical politics, and took an active partin the ill-fated German Revolution of 1848. After the revolution was crushed, he was forced to flee to Switzerland, and then to London.
In 1852, Schurz and his wife emigrated to the United States. They lived in New York City for a time, but moved to a farm in Watertown, Wisconsin, in 1854, where Schurz was admitted to the bar and began practicing law. By 1860 Schurz was a leading member of the newly-formed Republican Party. A supporter of Abraham Lincoln, he campaigned for him amongst the German populations of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In return, Lincoln named him U.S. Envoy to Spain.
An active opponent of slavery, Schurz returned to the United States soon after outbreak of the Civil War and joined the U.S. Army. After serving with distinction under General John Frémont, commander of the Department of the West, he was promoted to Brigadier General and placed in command of the 3rd Division of the Army of Virginia. In 1862 he was placed in command of the 3rd Division of the Army of the Potomac, in which capacity he participated in the battles of Bull Run and Fredericksburg. He was subsequently promoted to Major General, in which capacity he participated in the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. From September 1863 to January 1864, he commanded the 3rd Division of the Army of the Cumberland.
After the war, Schurz became the Washington correspondent for the New York Tribune, and then editor-in-chief of the Detroit Post. In 1867 he became the editor of a German language newspaper, the Westliche Post, in St. Louis, Missouri.
In 1869, Missouri sent Schurz to the U.S. Senate, where he served until 1875. In 1872 he supported Horace Greeley against Ulysses S. Grant for President, a position which did not set well with a large segment of the Republican Party. His rift with the Republicans had healed sufficiently by 1877, however, as he was appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Rutherford B. Hayes. In this capacity Schurz introduced a number of civil service reforms and made improvements to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
After leaving office in 1881, Schurz moved to New York City, where he helped found the New York Evening Post. He also wrote articles for Harper's Weekly and editorials for The Nation, and had several books published, including The Life of Henry Clay (1887) and Abraham Lincoln: An Essay (1891), as well as his three-volume memoirs, Reminiscences.
Carl Schurz died in New York City on May 14, 1906.
Library >> American History >> United States: General History and Description >> Late 19th Century, 1865-1900 >> Biography, A-Z
This page was last updated on May 15, 2017.